Beloved Disciple: The Feast Day of Saint John
When Jesus was arrested and later put on trial, all of his Apostles – except one – deserted him. Peter followed at a distance after the arrest, but even he would flee after he denied three times knowing Jesus, just as the Lord had foretold. The one Apostle who remained was John, son of Zebedee and brother of James “the Greater,” and today the Church celebrates his feast day.
At the Last Supper, John had rested his head on Jesus’ chest. Now after the Lord was seized, John stayed close by outside the house of the high priest as Jesus was questioned and tried. John was there at the foot of the Cross at the side of Mary and it was to him that Jesus said of her, “Behold your mother,” as he said to Mary, “Behold your son.” Then, after the Resurrection, John ran with Peter to the empty tomb.
In recounting these events in the Gospel attributed to John, the text never identifies him by name. He is instead called the “other disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John refers to himself as the beloved disciple not in a boastful or exclusive manner, but in a way that invites us to see ourselves in that position.
“The Lord wishes to make each one of us a disciple who lives in personal friendship with him,” affirmed Pope Benedict XVI in his catechesis on Saint John. In accepting this invitation to be Jesus’ beloved disciple, “it is not enough to follow him and to listen to him outwardly: it is also necessary to live with him and like him. This is only possible in the context of a relationship of deep familiarity, imbued with the warmth of total trust. This is what happens between friends,” added the Holy Father.
Jesus loves each of us to the end. He laid down his life for us that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Each of us is the “beloved disciple” if only we love him and one another as he loves us. Each of us as Christ’s followers can look to his mother Mary as our own Blessed Mother who loves each of us as her own children.
Love is a major theme of John’s writings. It is John who makes explicit what is illustrated throughout scripture and in our daily lives too – that God loves us, but even more, “God is Love” himself in his infinite very being.
To be one with the Lord, then, is to be one with the fullness of Love not simply as sentiment, but as a living reality. This is the Good News and this is why we say with Saint John, as he did in concluding the Book of Revelation, “Come, Lord Jesus!”